On arrival at Burridge’s gravel car-park I could see manager, Paul Dyke, and club chairman, Barrie Becheley, talking with one another on the pitch. It was reminiscent of Roman Abramovich’s recent and well publicised visit to Andre Villas Boas, at Chelsea’s training ground. Not that Barrie was not here to question Paul on recent results. Nor was he here to find out why he cannot pry centre-half, Ryan Hurst and midfielder, Daniel Esfandiari away from work on Saturday afternoons. He was here for more practical reasons, to give Paul a black tool bag filled with a new set of steel pegs and Velcro ties for the goal nets.
Our trimmed squad has been well documented on this blog. The loss of players has coincided with a barren spell in terms of wins.. It has also had an effect on training. The number of players at training on Thursday evenings has dropped below the 14 needed to break even with the costs of hiring Hamble College’s artificial pitch. The idea of increasing training fees from £3 per player per session has never been considered. Instead, we rely on the £10 we generate after games at the West-End Brewery from the football scratch card.
In an attempt to unlock the squad’s subconscious I decided to text players, asking them what first springs to mind when thinking about Burridge. Not necessarily the current season, but their overall Burridge experience, which for some players goes back fifteen years. Or to be more specific a Sunday afternoon in September 1997, and a 5-4 win over Inter Northam Reserves in division four of the Meon Valley League.
Replies came in thick and fast. As I began to compare them it became apparent that they followed no discernible pattern. For some, it is memories as opposed to words , and in particularly a smash and grab mid-week 1-0 win over Hedge-End Rangers back in xxx 2007. In truth I was not fully prepared for the broad and contradictory tapestry of responses, which ranged from: Also rans, courage, average, team spirit, loyalty, waterlogged. One opted for Barrie Becheley’s iconic moustache. Others found it too complex to put into words.
The words Burridge and success may not go instantly hand in hand, but in the absence of trophies, what exactly constitutes success at this level of the game? A group of players of a variety of ages taking up the otherwise opportunity to keep fit playing a game they enjoy and socialise together.
Prior to the game there is a genuine anticipation that we would win today and avenge the 2-0 loss to Hedge-End in January. This is not born out of any sense of entitlement or complacency, but from the performance in last week’s narrow defeat to third place Thornhill Health Kicks. The opening fifteen minutes are testament to this. We harry and chase across the pitch, helping Marc Judd finds gaps behind Town’s defence with his trademark left foot cross field ball. Sam Schwodler is on the end of most of them. He goes close to scoring on several occasions, most notably when cutting in from the right and striking powerfully to see his shot tipped over the crossbar
John Rix is adamant he’s given us the lead with a close range header, but the referee penalises Kev Willsher for pushing. An accusation he strongly denies. I then pick up a yellow card. The combination of desperation and necessity force me into a sliding tackle. The referee and I have a difference of opinion. He is not convinced by the circular gesture I make with my hands. He describes it as a bad tackle. The free kick deflects onto Jones’ post.
Town score on the stroke of half-time. Our sense of injustice chooses to ignore the fact that they had already hit the post and bar. Former Burridge striker, Stuart Seaborne, wrestles free of Kev Willsher, and strokes past Ryan Jones, as he did in the previous game.
Dyke understands this is not the time to dish out a bollocking. He emphasises how even a game it is, commending us on our work rate. The game opens up in the second-half. Chris Pye looks closer to full fitness, shooting narrowly wide from distance on two occasions. He then sees a deft headed goal ruled out for offside. Town make it two-nil from a twenty yard free kick, side footed low past Jones’ left. We continue to huff and puff, but an all important goal remains elusive. Sam Schwodler remained philosophic after the final whistle. Equally unhappy with his own performance and the result, he said: “It’s depressing, but you have to forget about it and get on with the next game.” It seems like sound advice.
GK: Ryan Jones, RB: Mark Reeves, CB: Sam Hewitt, CB: Kev Willsher, LB: Dan Allen, RM: John Rix, CM:Martyn Barnett, CM: Mark Sanderson (Rob Mills), LM: Marc Judd, CF: Paul Andrews (Chris Pye), CF: Sam Schwodler